FDA finds plant was negligent

LAWRENCEVILLE - A federal investigation into pet food containing a deadly toxin revealed the manufacturer failed to follow proper testing procedures that would have prevented its food from being contaminated.

Dozens of dogs have died after eating a product made by Diamond Pet Foods, although there has been no definitive proof that consuming the food caused the deaths.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigation of Diamond Pet Foods began shortly after the Meta, Mo.-based company in December recalled certain dog food made at its plant in Gaston, S.C.

The corn-based products contained a toxin that, once ingested, caused severe internal bleeding and death. In its report, federal regulators said Diamond requires each shipment of corn to be checked for the toxin, but the Gaston plant's records "did not always document that the tests were done or that the test was performing properly."

Diamond dog food was sold locally at several locations, including Honey Do Hardware in Dacula. That is where Denise Newlon bought food for her Australian shepherd Panda.

Newlon, a Gwinnett Daily Post employee, said Panda died after eating the contaminated food. The FDA report makes Newlon angry because she believes the deaths of her dog and others could have been prevented.

"Look at all the heartache they caused because they didn't follow procedures," Newlon said. "Didn't it matter to them that they weren't running the test? They knew the repercussions. It was poison. Didn't they care?"

Newlon said she will contact a lawyer.

Diamond Pet Foods issued a statement saying it cooperated fully with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigation and supports the findings.

"Prior to the product recall, the company had stringent guidelines in place to test incoming shipments of corn for the toxin," the company said. "It was apparent by the FDA report that those guidelines were not followed. The company has taken the necessary actions to prevent these oversights from happening in the future."

The FDA has cleared the Gaston plant to resume shipping products.

For more information on the recall, visit Diamond Pet Foods' Web site at www.diamondpet.com or call the Diamond Customer Information Center at 1-866-214-6945.